Places to visit in Greece
Greece with all its glorious history and myth is one of the most beautiful travel destinations in Europe. The land of Athina, Poseidon, Zeus, Aphrodite, Plato, Socretes and Apollo. The country made famous on screen through films like 300, My Big Fat Greek Wedding and Clash of the Titans. A destination seeped in history and featured in the top 10 most visited countries in Europe.
For the quick stop traveler who are content to just visit one city to check the box of the country visited, then make good use of your limited time and stick to just the capital – Athens. Named after Athena – the goddess of war, the city is a shining example of blending the ancient with the modern.
What to see:
Parthenon at the Acropolis: The ultimate symbol of culture – The Parthenon is a temple built in 438 BC. The temple was built for Athena, the goddess of wisdom. The Parthenon is built on a hill which is called the Acropolis, which dominates Athens. The strategic location makes it visible from most parts of the city during day and also at night when it is beautifully illuminated. It is not just the Parthenon that can be found at the Acropolis. There is the Erecthion, which is believed to be the site where Athena and Poseidon once had a fight over who would be the patron of the city. There is the Theater of Herod Atticus, which many may remember from the Yanni: Live at The Acropolis concert. Further on is the Theater of Dionysos. Just below the entrance to the Acropolis is the rock of Areopagos. From here you have beautiful views of the city and of the Parthenon.
The Temple of Zeus at Olympia
The Temple of Zeus at Olympia is dedicated to the chief of the gods – Zeus. It was completed in 131 A.D. Out of the original columns only 15 stand today. Next to the temple stands the Arch of Hadrian which was also built around 132 A.D. It is believed to be built in honor of the Roman emperor Hadrian.
National Archeological Museum
A must see for anyone with even the slightest interest in history. A great museum, housing the richest collection of Greek and Egyptian artifacts. Some of the objects displayed date back to 6000 B.C
The Academy of Arts
This magnificent building is located right next to the University of Athens. The two columns standing in front of the building support the statues of Athena and Apollo.
The Greek Parliament
The Greek Parliament building is located in the most central part of Athens – The Syntagma Square or Constitution Square. Time your visit in a way that you witness the changing of the guards, which happens every hour and is a simple ceremony worth watching.
Just a short walk away from the Parliament Building, between Syntagma Sqaure and the Temple of Zeus is the National Gardens. It is a serene and peaceful stretch though not very large and has benches on both sides of the pathway. Further down is the Zappeion Hall, named after Evangelis Zappas, who was the founder of the Olympic Games.
The Panathenaic Stadium
Built in the 4th century B.C. It is from here that the Olympic flame is delivered to all the Olympic Games. The track around the stadium looks odd as it has two straight stretches with a narrow hair pin bend which is much sharper than the modern standard track.
Where to Stay:
Syntagma or Constitution square. This is the most central location as all the tourist destinations are easily accessible from here. You could walk down to Plaka, Monastiraki or Psirri which are all famous areas for souvenirs, shopping, flee market and the nightlife. Apart from the various cafes and restaurants, there is also a McDonald and the Hard Rock Café. There are many good hotels in this area with beautiful views of the square and the Parliament building.
What to do:
Plaka – This is a popular area amongst the tourists. The houses located here are constructed as per traditional architecture, like they were a century ago. It is a maze of narrow lanes with residential houses, souvenir shops, cafes and restaurants on both sides. Do not forget to put on your bargaining cap at the souvenir shops.
Nightlife: Even though all tourist brochures would have you believe that Psirri is the place to be to experience the nightlife of Athens. The real hot spot for the young Athenians is Gazi.
The second largest city in Greece – Thessaloniki, is the capital city of the Macedonian region in the Northern part of the country. The city is known for its festivals, social events and a buzzing nightlife make this city the cultural capital of Greece. The city is one of the best places to visit in Greece lying in the North it offers a mix of old and new attractions. They include the Byzantine walls, White Tower and the relaxing Turkish baths. Thessaloniki is also famous for its exuberant food markets, museums and art galleries. The nightlife in Thessaloniki’s can be matched or perhaps even exceed in notoriety to that of Athens. The city has many small hole in the wall tavernas that are very popular with locals and visitors alike.
If you are interested in natural beauty then Zagori should be on your list of places to visit in Greece. An area of immense natural beauty, the wonders of geology can be found in the two national parks in this northwestern region of Greece. Dense forests, rugged mountains and rivers streaming next to traditional villages is just a beautiful experience. You will be able to find many hiking trails that go through these villages that are lined with grand stone houses. The best of them and which should be definitely on your places to visit in Greece is the Vikos Gorge.
Not far from Thessaloniki is Halkidiki, which is a trident-like peninsula which boasts of some of the best beaches in Greece. The three separate peninsulas also are famous for its diverse offerings. While Kassandra has the nightlife, Sithonia has the beaches and Athos has the monks. Kassandra is more city-like being closest to Thessaloniki, While Sithonia is quieter and has numerous camping grounds. It also offers some hidden coves and clear waters. The easternmost peninsula belongs to the Mount Athos monastery and can be only reached by boat and only male pilgrims are allowed entry.
Greece is home to so many ancient and popular archaeological sites. After the Acropolis in Athens, Delphi is the most popular archaeological site in Greece. It is located about two and half hours away from Athens and is situated along the beautiful slopes of the awe-inspiring Mount Parnassus. The ancient Greek considered Delphi to be the center of the earth and was an important oracle dedicated to Apollo in ancient times. There are a lot significant ruins at Delphi which includes the Temple of Apollo, the Athenian Treasury, and the theater that once hosted events of the ancient Pythian Games.
Meteora in Greek means ‘suspended in the air’. As the name suggests it is a group of spectacular cliffs that rise more than 366 meters into the air in the north-central part of Greece. The cliffs are made even more spectacular with the dotting of historic monasteries which are peppered along them. One of the most beautiful places in Greece, these monasteries date back to the 14th and 16th centuries and were primarily built by monks who sought spiritual isolation and freedom from religious persecution.
Crete is the largest of the Greek islands and is known for its spectacular beauty. It boasts a mesmerizing coastline and the beauty of the rugged mountains. The island is also full of rolling countryside lined with olive trees. It is one of the most sought after travel destination in Europe with its quiet villages and outdoor coffee shops. Unsurprisingly, it is one of the most favored tourist attractions in Greece. The mystical and pristine island to the south of the Aegean Sea captures the spirit of Greece and enchants everyone who visits.
However, the jewel amongst the island treasure of Greece is Santorini. It is one of the most amazing and picturesque islands and definitely one of the best places to visit in Greece. It is a volcanic island located in the most southern part of the Cyclades group of islands in the Aegean Sea. The eternal rock continues to stand strong, rising proudly from the sea and is one of the most famous places in Greece.
Another favorite amongst visitors and Greeks alike is the island of Mykonos. The island features the signature traditional whitewashed houses and maze-like streets. Mykonos is the party capital of the islands and popular for its beach bars and party atmosphere. But it offers much more than that. The island charms history buffs and soul searchers alike with its vast array of whitewashed churches, shops and museums.
There are islands a plenty in this beautiful country that attract tourists from all over the world with the variety on offer. You can pick the best places to visit in Greece from the approximately 2000 exotic islands to choose from. You sure are spoilt for choice with beautiful locations that range from the gorgeous beaches, ancient ruins, colorful harbors and active volcanoes.
It is absolutely difficult to pick out the best place to visit in Greece once you get to know the country and realize the diversity that the country has to offer. You definitely want to start with Athens and take in the muddle of myth and history and then probably move on to the world famous islands of Greece like Mykonos or Santorini
Santorini is arguably the most famous and possibly the most beautiful island in Greece. With its cliff-top villages and amazing views, it’s one of the most unique Greek islands, shaped by a volcanic eruption a few thousand years ago.
Most islands are very quiet in the winter. Crete and Santorini are the best islands as they still have plenty to do even in winter and shoulder seasons when it still has plenty to do.
The perception about Greece can be a bit deceptive. As a country, it has the reputation of being inexpensive. But as a travel destination, it isn’t always cheap. Do not compare the travel costs of Greece to any of the countries in Eastern Europe. It will be higher compared to them but less expensive compared to Western and Northern Europe.
Greece is a hugely popular tourist destination in Europe and hence English is spoken by many, especially in the tourist destinations and places. You will be perfectly fine using English in Athens and any of the other tourist destinations. However, in remote and rural areas some basic Greek will be helpful.